Day 28: The Turkey Trotters.

Dear friends,

turkeytrot2

On the 28th day of this month of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the family and friends who humored me by starting the day with a 5K.

It was a chilly 25 degrees and I must have asked each person in our group no fewer than five times if they were dressed warmly enough. Parker answered yes more than once then froze to death without gloves and a hat. (Told ya!)

Must be why he flew through the course. He placed 6th out of 67 runners with a very respectable 24:17.

I flew through dinner afterwards.

plate

And later, I’m going to fly through pumpkin cake and pecan pie.

A girl’s got to play to her strengths, don’t you think?

With gratitude {for one of the most memorable Thanksgivings ever},

Joan, who didn’t come in last (or even next to last) among her group, which is no small feat given she was the oldest of the six Turkey Trotters

Day 27: Girls bearing gifts.

Dear friends,

gifts

Kate and her teammates made it home today, just in time for a fabulous dinner of lemon cream pasta, grilled shrimp, Greek salad, and lemon-blueberry cake. Mr. Mom and I tag-teamed in the kitchen and I think the girls were impressed that dinner was served a half hour after Kate mentioned she was hungry.

More impressive were the gifts Kate’s friends gave us. Lusy, a sophomore from Slovakia, gave me a book with select sentiments about gratitude. (How perfect is that?) And her roommate, Kris, a sophomore from Russia, gave us a bottle of vodka from her homeland.

Girls bearing gratitude and liquor . . . I don’t think it gets any better than that! I think I’ll toast them with a Thanksgiving Day cocktail.

With gratitude {for the sweet college girls who have made our last two Thanksgivings holidays that I’ll never forget},

Joan, who, in preparation for Thursday’s 5K, will run at least 10K around the kitchen island today

Day 24, 25 and 26: Whirlwind.

Dear friends,

buddy2

I’ve spent the last three days on a pre-holiday whirlwind.

I made a blazing trip to Tulsa and back to see CupKate and meet our favorite reality television star Buddy Valastro of Cake Boss.

I’ve been quilting like a maniac to meet an upcoming deadline.

I’ve been furiously cleaning house and planning our Thanksgiving-stravaganza in preparation for the arrival of Kate and two of her teammates later today.

I’ve been running.

I’ve been Christmas shopping.

I’ve been having the time of my life, if only I could catch my breath!

With gratitude (for my favorite time of year spent with my favorite people},

Joan, who is sad to report Mr. Mom learned this week that his “tennis shoulder” is actually a torn rotator cuff and surgery will be scheduled soon, prompting a domestic crisis because Mr. Mom in a sling? Lord bless the helpless family!

Day 23: Gone to bed.

Dear friends,

cozy

On the 23rd day of this month of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the coziest place in my home, my bed.

It says a lot about me that the place I most enjoy being is in bed. In our household, the most common answer to “Where’s Mom?” is “She’s in bed.”

If I had my druthers, I’d put a bed in the living room. I have a daydream about living in a Manhatten studio where the bed and sofa compete for precious space and the bed wins out. After all, there’s nothing you can do on a sofa that you can’t do better and more comfortably in a great bed. Read, watch television, work, snack, nap, sleep — I do it all in our king-sized bed.

There’s nothing particularly luxe about my bed. My linens are standard fare from Macy’s and my pillows and comforter are from Ikea, But like the princess who hated the pea, I’ve stacked three foam pads on my department store mattress to create an improvised pillow-top surface worthy of the most delicate royalty.

That’s why our bed appears lopsided. Mr. Mom prefers firm mattresses, where firm equals a slab of stone. He chose an extra-firm Sealy while I chose an extra soft Sealy — and our marriage has been all the happier since we put two twin size mattresses together on our king sized bed frame some five years ago.

We also differ on blanket preferences, so this time of year his side of the bed is covered with a Pendleton wool blanket featuring a Native American motif I gave him as a birthday gift many years ago. My side of the bed is covered with a Vera Bradley floral fleece blanket that satisfies my feminine aesthetic and tactile sensibilities.  As a woman who’s known to have a very discerning sense of decor, I find it strange that the clash of the two very different blankets vying for space on top of our comforter doesn’t unnerve me.  But when I look at our bed, all I see is an idyllic Island of Comfort piled high with linens and pillows and blankets just waiting to envelop me.

Friday morning, it was 33 degrees with a stiff wind and  a light rain. To say I got a little chilled during my pre-dawn run is a bit of an understatement. I was so cold I came home and — instead of answering email and getting a head-start on the day’s work as I usually do — I crawled back under the covers and invited Mr. Mom to share some warmth with his frozen wife. The view outside our bedroom window was like a pen and ink drawing of a winter day, gray sky framing a stand of black, sculptural trees. As I savored the coziness and stillness and beauty of the moment, I thanked my lucky stars for the comfort of a good bed and a generous man.

With gratitude {for every moment spent in my favorite place},

Joan, who takes after her father who often said “There’s few pleasures in life more enjoyable than sleeping”

Day 22: Words, not my own.

Dear friends,

redcloud

On Day 22 of this month of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the bounty of words that spill into my life.

For as long as I can remember, words have captured the world for me. Those I scoured, those I savored, those little understood, those I wrote tiny and tucked away in miniature diaries, even those on the back of cereal boxes which I faithfully read during childhood breakfasts were worthy of my attention.

Words meant something, I thought, when written down. I’d seen too many words spoken carelessly — false promises and glib answers and half-truths hanging in the air like an inconvenient fog you hoped would have broken by now. Words on paper were gospel, their power evident in stately fonts printed in black ink on crisp, white paper, and I aimed to harness some of that power for myself until I got sidetracked somewhere south of 20.

To this day, nothing moves me like the written word. I read as widely and voraciously as time and multiple distractions allow. I use every opportunity afforded me to add new and interesting words to my vocabulary, like exogenous, which I heard for the first time last month while listening to National Public Radio in my car and which compelled me to immediately pull over so I could look it up on my iPhone and commit its meaning to memory.

A new book came in the mail today — a late birthday gift for Mr. Mom — with the beautiful title “The heart of everything that is.” I might steal it from his bedside table before he has the chance to crack it. Half my ancestors are white and half are Native American and I’ve always sided with the brown skinned bunch. (It’s the subversive in me.) I knew Mr. Mom would enjoy the story and I figured I might learn something.

Speaking of learning something, read as much as you can. There’s so much to be gained, even from cheap fiction (okay, maybe not 50 Shades of Drivel), amateur poetry, weak news reporting, propaganda. The worst, most lazy, most hateful writing tests your heart, I think, while the most soaring and intelligent prose shapes your sensibilities and your intellect in ways not easily squandered.

Read. Form an opinion. Discuss.

Rinse and repeat for the sake of humanity.

With gratitude {for all the delicious words I’ve ever read},

Joan, who implores you to read this essay, the most beautiful piece of writing to come her way in a long time, and who hopes you’ll drop back by after reading and let her know what you thought of it

Day 20 and 21: Equal time.

Dear friends:

I get the feeling Mr. Mom was a little embarrassed by yesterday’s attention. (Flattered and grateful, but embarrassed.)

Lest you think I’m syrupy sweet (which I assure you I am not, ask my closest friends) or that we are a “perfect” couple (by whatever your definition of perfect is and I assure you, again, we are not), I’ve decided to give equal time to my beloved’s flaws. That’s plural. And he has them, even though I typically talk about my blessings not my challenges.

Here’s a story I wrote four years ago about a habit of his that makes me crazy. It makes me so crazy and I’ve mentioned it so many times that the man now mostly goes outside when he feels an uncontrollable urge to . . . pace!

(Which kinda makes him even more of a saint, but we’re not talking about that today.)

With gratitude {for the flaws that make Mr. Mom perfectly human and, thus, our marriage miraculously balanced},

Joan, aka the Magpie

The Pacer

first published in January 2009

Scene in Magpie Manor last night —

Mr. Mom:    Blah, blah, blah, pointless blah, blah, blah, and more blah.

Kate:            (giggling uncontrollably because she’s too young to understand her father is NOT funny)

Magpie:        (speaking to no one in particular) I abhor him.  I abhor him with my entire soul.

I know . . . abhor is a strong word.  But trust me when I say if you lived here, you’d pull out the A word, too.

Let me explain.  Mr. Mom is a pacer.  Have you ever lived with a pacer?  It’s absolutely unnerving.  He simply can’t sit still.  On an evening like last night, Kate and I are sitting on the sofa, comfortably nestled into furry blankets, savoring every moment of American Idol, and Mr. Mom gets up and starts pacing.

He wanders in the sun room and jacks with the computer for a minute without sitting down.  He steps into the study and does lord knows what.  He circles the dining room table, cutting the corners like he’s a NASCAR driver at Talladega.  He wanders into the kitchen.  We hear rustling but he doesn’t stay long enough for us to ponder what in the world he’s doing.  He steps into the middle of the living room and stares into space as if the purpose of his movement is in the air and is about to land on his consciousness any second now.

HE DOES THIS SORT OF THING ALL THE TIME.

Enjoying some down time, grabbing a little R&R, cooling in the veg lounge is IMPOSSIBLE with him in the room.  And don’t dare sit beside him, even for a moment, because his legs vibrate.  That is, they jitter uncontrollably.  Lying beside him in bed is akin to filling the coin slot in a creepy Best Western vibrating bed.  Several times a week I yell at him to “Stop shaking your legs!!!!!”

I suspect he doesn’t even relax when he sleeps.  He frequently has nightmares, during which he moans and fidgets and occasionally screams.  Ever been awakened from a dead sleep by a 6’6”, 200 lb. screaming man?

Chill, dude.  Seriously.

So after the pacing started last night, I looked up at one point and said “What are you doing?”

This question he interpreted as an unnatural and dangerous interest in his movement, as if some sort of potential infringement on his liberty was lurking behind my question (which was really just a very polite WTH?), because his trademark sarcasm kicked in and he responded:

I’m walking to the basement to fold laundry.  I’m leaving the living room now.  I’m passing through the dining room.  (Louder) I’m in the kitchen now, stepping toward the basement.  (Even louder) I’m walking down the basement steps toward the laundry.

Or he said blah, blah, blah, pointless blah, blah, blah and more blah,  all of which his undiscerning teenage daughter found to be devastatingly hilarious.

Come to think of it, I abhor all of them.

Day 19: Mr. Mom.

Dear friends,

DougJoanStPats

Still crazy about him after all these years.

On the 19th day of this month of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for Mr. Mom.

It’s his 50th birthday. Give him a shout-out, will you?

I have written many, many stories about him. If you followed me over from my former blog, you’ve read most of them. I keep searching for new and better words to capture my enduring affection and respect for the man I met at age 22 and who — nearly 30 years later — still makes my eyes light up and my pulse quicken.

In this space, my favorite posts about Mr. Mom are this one,

and this one

and this one.

Despite continuing attempts, I seem to come up short at expressing what he means to me.

I’ve said he’s my genesis. My steady rudder. My love, my life, and my laughter. The reason I’ve achieved anything worth talking about. The most evolved man I’ve ever known.

And none of that scratches the surface of a man so kind, so thoughtful, so devoid of ego, so generous, so invested in becoming all he can to benefit those he loves that this writer — a woman who thinks she’s pretty adept at stringing words together — quietly contemplates the paucity of her prose and fervently wishes she could do him justice.

Since I can’t, I’ll simply say Happy Birthday, man of my dreams.

With gratitude {for the tall drink of water who took a chance on an over-dressed, under-evolved college girl on a blind date 28 years ago},

Joan, who kind of fancies herself the Diane Cort to Mr. Mom’s Lloyd Dobbler for more reasons than you can imagine, including wild romantic gestures, trench coats, “friends with potential,” and paternal frailties

Day 18: Employed!

Dear friends,

parkseed2

Parker and friends shoveling seed in the hazy grain elevator.

Today my boy got a job. So on this 18th day of a month of Thanksgiving I am grateful for gainful employment for the youngest member of our family.

It’s not Park’s first job and won’t be his last but should tide him over until he leaves for college. During the summer he worked long hours for good wages, hauling hay for a handful of local farmers and shoveling seed at a nearby grain company. I’m proud to say he saved the majority of his earnings and has a bank account Kate salivates over.

But when hay season ended in early September, he found himself unemployed until today.

Starting next month, he’ll be a cook at a new Buffalo Wild Wings franchise that’s opening in our town. Score! Our family loves wings. We cook them frequently and go out of our way to try new wing joints whenever we’re traveling. B-Dubs (as the teenagers call it) is one of our favorites. Given the local restaurant’s kitchen staffing, I can’t imagine we’ll pass up many opportunities to eat wings made by our favorite cook.

Pass the hot sauce, will you?

With gratitude {for paychecks and a new excuse to eat wings},

Joan, who celebrated Parker’s announcement by making his special request for supper — biscuits and gravy (hey, when it’s good, it’s worth having two days in a row!)

Days 16 and 17: Just this.

Dear friends,

This consumed my last two days:

kate

Kate was home for the weekend and both SweetPea and I relaxed in the comfort of her presence.

We cooked, we ate, we talked, we napped, we watched television, we cleaned, we celebrated Mr. Mom’s birthday (a couple of days early) and we shopped — all in a single weekend. It was just what this mother hen needed to reconnect with the chickie she misses most.

And — it was a warm-up for next weekend, when I’ll travel to Oklahoma for this big event.

With gratitude {for a much-needed mother-daughter recharge},

Joan, who indulged her little chickie’s special request for biscuits and sausage gravy and was told by everyone who ate them they were the best ever

biscuit

Day 15: The favor chain.

Dear friends,

leaves

So I have this neighbor three houses down from mine.

And my neighbor happens to work with me. I don’t want to be all specific about the work sitch, so let’s just say she’s down the chain from me. And when I get ideas, she gets the “fun” of implementing them. She’s really great at implementing ideas, whereas I am only good at dreaming them up, and that’s just one reason why I love working with her.

Today, on my way to the office, I drove by her house and noticed her yard was awash in autumn leaves. She’s a widowed working gal living among retirees and a stay-at-home dad (Mr. Mom), all of whom have plenty of time to rake their leaves.

My neighbor would have more time to rake her leaves if I didn’t have so many ideas at work needing her attention. So I called Mr. Mom and asked, very politely, if he would mind raking her leaves because, you know, I’ve been keeping her busy and she might feel bad that everybody’s lawn is clean but hers.

He’d already raked and burned another neighbor’s leaves so he really didn’t mind, but he refused to do it without knowing “her preferences.” (This is where the woman who’s never raked leaves in her life learned people have preferences about this sort of thing.)

So I called my neighbor under the pretense of details related to a meeting later that day and I mentioned her leaves. Because she’s a nice person who indulges me but probably thinks I am either an exceptionally nosy neighbor or colleague, or both (the mixing of which can be tricky), I managed to end the conversation with enough information to get Mr. Mom going.

And, of course, he got it done pronto. So when she went home for lunch she saw that her weekend’s chore had been taken care of.

Which made her really happy.

Which made me really happy.

And I have to say: this favor chain idea — where someone does me a favor and then someone else returns the favor for me — well, it really rocks! You should try it.

With gratitude {for the endless favors, large and small, granted to me by almost everyone in my life},

Joan, who’s not the least bit OCD about autumn leaves and actually prefers the view with them on the ground but conforms to societal standards as long as Mr. Mom provides the labor